The Separation of Church and State


The Separation of Church and State

Here is why in 2019 it is finally time to draw a clear line between faith and politics. And why the separation of church and state doesn’t mean what you think it does – but should. 


‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ – First Amendment to the US Constitution (1791)


There is no explicit mention in the Constitution of the nation state being separate of religious institutions, only that government should not interfere in the right of practice or establishment of religion. In fact, the original motivation of the separation of church and state was to keep religion pure, so the corruption of government wouldn’t bleed into the sacred piety of kiddy fiddling. 


Nowadays, the separation of church and state is more often used in the context of reducing faith-based institutions’ roles in the political decision-making process in the interest of sense and morality. All it takes is a pocket full of change to realise such a distinction does not exist. In God We Trust. Do we? What if we don’t? 


Every single US President since Roosevelt swore on a bible (apart from Johnson who swore on a Catholic missal – same shit, different pile) and religious belief is still consistently cited when politicians affirm their wholesome commitment to morality. The Republicans do it constantly, because they need to win the South, but the Democrats aren’t much better. 


Pete Buttigieg is a devout Episcopalian and mentions that fact scarcely every five minutes. And even though he seems like a very likeable, even-keeled, intelligent man who might do a very good job in the White House, given the chance, questions need to be raised about a person’s decision-making capacity if they truly believe the Universe was started by something to the effect of ‘Abracadabra’. At some point, somebody told Baby Pete all these fantastical stories about magic and fairydust and instead of asking ‘Why?’ just once in his entire lifetime, he just said ‘OK’. Doesn’t exactly sound like a leadership mentality.


But this is 2019 and, in the name of equality, we don’t only want to be represented by Catholics who are wrong, so we got a Muslim who is wrong too. Trump’s comments referring to minority congresswomen, including Ilhan Omar, were a little on the Nuremburg ’38 side, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t subject to valid criticism. Claiming she is un-American for being Muslim is undeniably xenophobic. As we’ve established, believing in mythical wizardry is entirely American. What is entirely typical of religious people is her lack of acceptance for people who do not represent her value system. 


It is fair to say Ilhan Omar has had her fair share of anti-Semitism scandals. Now, simply criticising Israel and some of their actions under the Netanyahu government does not an anti-Semite make. Even in his own country Benjamin Netanyahu cuts an extremely divisive figure what with the human rights violations and fascistic nationalism and all. In 2012 Omar could have levelled valid, fact-based criticisms at the Israeli government in power without the use of insults of racial tropes. She went a different route…

A nice xenophobic-religious tag team of a tweet there. If you don’t know why this is deeply offensive, good on you. It plays on an old anti-Semitic trope that Jews use hypnosis to conspire against the world. After initially not understanding why Jewish Americans would take offence to her comments she later apologised for ‘not disavowing the anti-Semitic trope (she) unknowingly used’. Oddly unfortunate and specific choice of words to have stumbled over in that case. 


This is the exact duality that comes with religion: lamenting mistreatment while blurting out (insert any conceivable form of intolerance) in the same breath which is why religion is fundamentally undemocratic. It relies on the notion of punishment to those who do not prescribe to the same set of dogmatic practices put in place to maintain control over their clergy under the guise of morality. The aversion to debate or calling these pseudo values into question is the exact antithesis of a democratic society. So, let’s reprint the money, stop swearing on bibles, and finally disregard the falsehood of religious people inhabiting some sort of higher moral realm. For the love of Nothing! When will this end?

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